The Sun Poll on British Muslim Attitudes
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
The Sun newspaper was roundly criticised for misrepresenting the findings of a survey conducted by market research agency Survation. The poll was a telephone survey carried out for The Sun, with a representative sample size of 1,003.
Among various questions surveying British Muslim attitudes, the survey asked:
Q6. Which of the following statements is closest to your view?
“I have a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria” – 53 people out of 1003 (5.3%)
“I have some sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria” – 145 people out of 1003 (14.5%)
“I have no sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria” – 716 out of 1003 (71.4%)
From this the Sun ran the misleading headline “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis”.
The nature of the sympathy that has been mentioned in the question is not entirely clear, but to translate this to the headline which the Sun ran is misleading and inaccurate.
Both the Daily Mirror and the Independent ran counter articles pointing out the incorrect framing of the Sun. The Mirror says “No, 1 in 5 British Muslims doesn’t have sympathy with ISIS – here’s why”, The Independent says “No, one in five British Muslims do not support Isis”. In a report on
A worker for the polling company told vice.com that initially the poll looked interesting, but after about 20 minutes he began to feel strange about it and that all those who worked on the project were “suspicious of the script and the way the questions were framed…”. The anonymous worker went on to say that he became more and more embarrassed about asking these questions. [see http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-conducted-the-muslim-poll-the-sun-jihadi-sympathy]
The polling company themselves distanced itself from the Sun’s interpretation of the poll’s findings in a statement on the Survation website blog:
“Survation do not support or endorse the way in which this poll’s findings have been interpreted. Neither the headline nor the body text of articles published were discussed with or approved by Survation prior to publication.
The Sun headline also generated a record 2,600 complaints to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation. In a press statement to iMediaEthics, IPSO said:
“IPSO’s policy when dealing with a large number of complaints about a particular issue that requires investigation is to select a lead complaint. In this case, IPSO has selected MEND (Muslim Engagement & Development) as the lead complaint. We have written to The Sun to inform them that we have commenced an investigation into this matter.”
Meanwhile, MPs have demanded a meeting with Sun editor Tony Gallagher after expressing concerns that the article has falsely claimed that one in five British Muslims had sympathy for those going off to join ISIS.
Over 32,000 people signed a petition demanding an apology from The Sun. “This headline and article is not only an inaccurate lie but is also inflammatory and extremely damaging to our community cohesion,” the petition on change.org said.
It is our view that inaccurate headlines such as these give rise to hatred and Islamophobia in Britain. As hate crimes and attacks against Muslims are on the rise in Britain, editorial staff should be mindful of the negative impact such misleading headlines are likely to have on the streets of Britain.
The full survey results can be obtained from the Survation website.